The virus is surging in several states, with California hit particularly hard, reporting on Thursday a record two-day total of 1,042 coronavirus deaths. Skyrocketing caseloads there are threatening to force hospitals to ration care and essentially decide who lives and who dies.
In California, health authorities Thursday reported 583 new deaths, a day after 459 people died. The overall death toll there stands at more than 28,000. The state also registered more than a quarter-million new weekly cases, and only Arizona tops California in cases per resident. Florida broke its record for the highest single-day number of cases with more than 19,800, while its death toll reached 22,400.
Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous with 10 million residents, and nearly two dozen other counties have essentially run out of intensive care unit beds for COVID-19 patients.
“This is a health crisis of epic proportions,” said Barbara Ferrer, public health director for Los Angeles County.
Meanwhile, the number of Americans who have gotten their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine climbed to at least 5.9 million Thursday, a one-day gain of about 600,000, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hundreds of millions will need to be vaccinated to stop the coronavirus.
As of Friday morning, Johns Hopkins University was reporting 21.5 million cases of the coronavirus since the pandemic began and a national overall death toll of more than 365,000. The U.S. continues to lead the world in overall cases and deaths. Globally, more than 1.9 million have died from the pandemic.
A new, more contagious variant has also begun spreading around the globe and in the U.S.